Polam Hall School

Name Polam Hall School
Ofsted Inspection Rating Requires improvement
Inspection Date 18 April 2018
Address Grange Road, Darlington, County Durham, DL1 5PA
Phone Number 01325463383
Type Academy
Age Range 4-19
Religious Character None
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 739 (43% boys 57% girls)
Academy Sponsor Woodard Academies Trust
Local Authority Darlington
Percentage Free School Meals 7.6%
Percentage English is Not First Language 6.2%
Persisitent Absence 13.2%
Pupils with SEN Support 8.8%
Catchment Area Information Available Yes, our catchment area data is FREE
Last Distance Offered Information Available No

Information about this school

In 2015, Polam Hall School opened as a free school, having previously been a fee-paying independent school. In 2017, the school changed its governance structure and became part of Woodard Academies Trust as a sponsored academy. The proportion of pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities is now below the national average. The proportion of pupils who have a statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan is below the national average. The proportion of disadvantaged pupils is below the national average. The proportion of pupils who start school at times other than the beginning of Reception or Year 7 is high. In 2017, the school did not meet the government’s current floor standards in the secondary phase, which set the minimum expectations for pupils’ attainment and progress by the end of Year 11. The school uses alternative providers to extend the curriculum opportunities for pupils at key stage 4 and students at key stage 5. These are Rise Carr College and Open Arms School. A new principal was appointed in 2017. Since the school opened in 2015, there have been significant changes to teaching and support staff in both the primary and secondary phases.

Summary of key findings for parents and pupils

This is a school that requires improvement This is a school that has undergone major turbulence over the past three years. Leaders did not make sure that teachers were adequately prepared for change. When the number of pupils at school increased, leaders did not ensure that the curriculum adequately met the needs of new pupils. In 2017, the progress that pupils made was not good enough in many subjects, including English, mathematics and modern languages. Pupils’ progress currently at school in key stages 2, 3 and 4 requires improvement. This is because the quality of teaching is too variable. The quality of pupils’ writing is not good enough. The progress that pupils make in writing at key stage 2 requires improvement. Some pupils sit uninterested in lessons. They do not rise to the challenges presented to them. This is reflected in poor presentation in exercise books. The attendance of disadvantaged pupils is too low. The quality of teaching that students receive in the sixth form requires improvement. Not all teachers plan consistently good lessons. The impact of the work of some middle leaders is in its infancy. For example, the impact of strategies to improve disadvantaged pupils’ performance in individual subjects is weak. The school has the following strengths The new principal has wasted no time in identifying weaknesses at school and dealing with them. She is tenacious and effective. Ably supported by her senior team, leaders are improving provision at a rapid pace. The new sponsor provides effective support. The academy council is increasingly effective at checking the work of school leaders to ensure that the school continues to improve. Teaching in early years is good. Children make good progress and develop their skills and understanding well. Pupils make good progress in key stage 1, and increasingly strong progress across the school as the improvements that leaders have made are starting to kick in. Pupils develop as rounded citizens. Their personal development is good and their welfare assured.